An Impoverished Infinity

In Christian theology, God is presented as the omnipotent creator, able to bring about literally any world it is possible to imagine. His power has no limits, he never suffers from weakness or fatigue, and he possesses the omniscient knowledge necessary to shape the world according to his overarching plan.Or so Christian apologists say, anyway. Yet when we atheists challenge them with the problem of evil, asking why a benevolent creator would bring about a world where disease and disaster … [Read more...]

Eternal Moments

Without an eternal soul our existence is truly meaningless in the long run which is all that matters. Eventually your effect on others, nations and the world subsides, even if you are Alexander the Great. The earth will cease to exist, the universe will eventually cease to support any life. It will be as if we never existed. There will be absolutely no trace.In the above excerpt from a feedback e-mail, a Christian visitor attempted to persuade me that I should view life as meaningless because … [Read more...]

The Moving Light of Time

"In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays."—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape LettersIn the above excerpt, C.S. Lewis expresses a very common view of time: that it "flows" from future to present to past like a filmstrip passing through a movie projector, with each frame of the film momentarily becoming the … [Read more...]

Blockbuster

A Response to Ned Block's "Blockhead"In a classic 1981 paper titled "Psychologism and Behaviourism", the philosopher Ned Block proposed a thought experiment that has been dubbed "Blockhead" in his honor. Block's experiment has to do with the Turing test, itself a classic proposal on how to test for the presence of intelligence in a machine (or some other suitable non-human agent). The Turing test consists of a human, the judge, conversing via computer terminal with two agents. One of the … [Read more...]

The 29th Philosophers' Carnival

The great Library at Daylight Atheism has been outfitted for an auspicious occasion. Merry bunting drapes the tall shelves of books, balloons congregate near the ceiling, and waiters quietly circulate bearing trays of drinks. Already the symposium is in full swing, and philosophers from every era and society in human history are circulating around the room and chatting animatedly: ancient Greeks in togas and sandals, Enlightenment Europeans - the men in frock coats and powdered wigs and the … [Read more...]

On Free Will V: Moral Responsibility

The last and arguably most important question of free will, one that is closely intertwined with the nature of choice, is the issue of moral responsibility. What is it that makes us responsible for what we do?Most traditional views, especially dualist views, hold that for a person to be morally responsible for an action they commit, they must have been able to choose a different course of action at the time. This belief is commonly held, but has rarely been examined. In this, the final part … [Read more...]

On Free Will IV: The Nature of Choice

What does it mean to make a choice? This question is at the heart of many of the debates over free will, and justifiably so. It may seem simple initially, but the more deeply one considers it, the knottier it becomes.The basic dilemma seems to be this: Every event that occurs either had sufficient cause to occur or it did not. If it did, then it seems choice has no part to play: the event happened because of that cause, and could not have failed to happen. But if it did not, then choice … [Read more...]

On Free Will III: Outsmarting the Prediction Machine

Clearly, what is immaterial in the human mind can influence the physical world, or our acts of will and understanding would be without effect. If our will is free these physical effects are not wholly predictable. —http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9511/revessay.htmlA merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The servant told the merchant, "I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.""Death made a threatening g … [Read more...]

On Free Will II: Overthrowing Dualism

For most of human history, philosophers have believed that only the possession of an immaterial soul could confer free will on human beings. (There have been exceptions: the ancient Greek Stoics, for example.) This idea has fallen somewhat out of favor, but there are many theists who still hold to it. They are willing to concede that the universe we live in is an interwoven tapestry of cause and effect, but insist that we are special somehow, that we are an exemption.If free will truly … [Read more...]

On Free Will I: Executive Summary

Over the ages, the question of whether we have free will has engaged, confronted, and puzzled philosophers probably more than any other issue, and untold numbers of papers, conferences, books and debates have been expended on tackling it. It is no surprise that so much philosophical ink has been spilled on this question, because it is in a sense the question upon which all other questions depend. If there is no free will, and thus no moral responsibility, it seems we might as well shut down the … [Read more...]


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